Friday, April 29, 2011

Pay attention to (your) Cat! He/She will make you smarter!

Yes! We think with our whole body, with the tools we use, with the space of the room we occupy, with the language we speak and write and wallow in, with the routines of work and of our daily lives, & when we walk down the street, with the shoes on our feet & the pavement beneath them & with everything we see & feel and hear in passing--with the trees we talk to, with the cat who lives with us! You see, MurphyCat! We make each other smarter! Oh, and Spirit Stick who walks with me! I knew that you had changed me, how I see myself, how I see the world!

See Levi Bryant's post, Extended Mind and Political Theory

Thursday, April 28, 2011

from Rondo 7: A Book of the Child

You see ( me ) this way because ) I ( can no longer, & will be as )( was before
)( was

beware little sparrow moineau little bird
catching flies for your babes

)( remember now remember now how
remember now a cat to be
a cat to be

)( will catch you little sparrow like sparrow catchfly
& play & play & play!
sparrow blood on my () claws
pretty blood, pretty blood on () claws!
& play!

don’t complain little bird!
Death’s no big deal, no big deal little bird
a little bird, little bird is all
little bird, little bird come to call

Monday, April 25, 2011

Poetry on Big Bridge

 I'm honored to be one of the featured poets on Big Bridge 15, (click on my name top of the photo) keeping company with some wonderful writers and poets!  Main page HERE.  Check it out and enjoy!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Found Things

Found Things hover between the Being of the unowned & the unbeing of the owned. Found Things can only be found in play.

Magic & Poetry

Mellisa asked me,'what is my relationship or understanding of "magic?"

I thought this a fair question... I mean, I carry a SpiritStick and talk to trees..

Here's my attempt to answer her. Proved too long for a comment in FaceBook.

Magic... hmm That's a hard question.
This is going to be long. Brace yourself, be forewarned.

In short--Magic/Religion that seeks to CONTROL & OWN, is anti-poetry. But both may be--as Blake understood--modes of imaginative freedom.
It's explaining the difference that's hard.

What do I think of magic? What I think of poetry in its full power... that it can be a means of making us free... to be equals among all Things, and not false Lords of creation.

That's the short answer. Now for the long.

Good place to begin maybe: magic involves stuff that science can't account for, okay? I think that's part of how the word is commonly used, isn't it? Now, stop cold. Huge caveat here.

I don't mean anything supernatural. I don't mean any kind of reality beyond or outside that material universe which science accepts as its proper object of study. I could say much the same for the language of religious experience. Where believers in religion and magic both get into trouble is in OBJECTIFYING the experience, making religion or magic alternatives to science and its competitors, making claim to a reality outside that of the material universe--outside of our bodily existence.

Blake saw religion as a perversion of poetry--of Imagination. First, there was poetry... made into religion by those whose imagination had been corrupted. I like that. It holds together both poetry and religion (and I'd include magical ideas/traditions in the same way)... as human creations, artifacts (Blake wouldn't have liked that word here... but... ) as fabrications of the imagination. Science proceeds with an important 'as if,' as if the subject doesn't exist--other than, perhaps, a point of distortion in place and time--that is, as a still objectifiable point of view. But there's more to poetic (the ontology of poetry ?) understanding than the simple epistemological distinction between subjective and objective... it's that poetry is a way of apprehending the real that INCLUDES the subject in what it apprehends... AND in the comprehending medium of the poem, vitiating the distinction between objective and subjective.

So too, religion... or magic... stripped of its falsifying objectification--which, in mirroring science as a like/opposite, strips it of its truth.

Too many words I know... to say, that there's more to every THING than meets the eye (Blake would like that... literally meant... but I don't mean quite what Blake did... that it's about the limitation of the physical senses). Rather... more what Speculative Realist philosophers like Levi Bryant (of Larval Subjects) means when they say that the Being of objects is always withdrawn, and what we experience of them, what we encounter, is only part but never all of their powers. What we experience of an object... it's color, say (Bryant's famous blue coffee mug) is not a quality of the object, but a manifestation of its power in a particular 'regime of attraction'... here, in the presence of light that includes blue for the mug to reflect back. Whew... so what, you may ask? Why does this matter? Because, I would say... that when we lose our sense of the deep reality of THINGS, we lose something of our own reality, our powers of choice, of freedom in the world are eroded and made captive by a false sense of 'knowing,' of Ownership. We become slaves of what we think we know and own, when this knowledge is really only a limit we impose so as not to discover powers of THINGS we have not already OWNED. We are led to think ourselves other and special and superior in our very Being to all other Things.

Both religion and magic, like poetry, can be ways of breaking through those limits, but both religion and magic may also become just other ways of locking the gates, attempts to CONTROL and OWN by OTHER MEANS.

What do I think of magic? What I think of poetry in its full power... that it can be a means of making us free... to be equals among all Things, and not false Lords of creation.

Maybe it'd be useful here to repost my Seven Principles of My Spirit Stick (Fox Chase Review: Autumn-Winter 2010)

.... that there are as many gods as there are people who imagine them
... that all imagined gods are real.
... that those who keep their god in chains become prisoners of their own lives, walking through the world untouching and untouched
... that if you give your god its freedom it will grow in power and (some not all) of its power will be yours
... that the gods care nothing about good and evil
... that they only know what you teach them
... that imagined gods cannot save you from death, but if you ask, they may give you the power to save them from death.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

René Char

Etre poète, c’est avoir de l’appétit pour un malaise dont la consommation, parmi les tourbillons de la totalité des choses existantes et pressenties, provoque, au moment de se clore, la félicité.

To be a poet is to have an appetite for a discomfort whose consummation, among the whirlwinds of totality of things existing and foreseen, provokes, at the moment of closure, happiness.

Translated by Mary Ann Caws, from René Char - Resistance in Every Way in The Brooklyn Rail
Dec 07 - Jan 08

Monday, April 18, 2011

A Cautionary Tale on the Commodification of Art

Judith Butler on Kafka's Papers

This gave me pause...

In a review of Michel Houellebecq on H.P. Lovecraft’s Contre le Monde, Contre la Vie, Michelle of Incurable Logophilia quotes Houellebecq:
Quoi qu’on en dise, l’accès à l’univers artistique est plus ou moins réservé à ceux qui en ont un peu marre. [No matter what people say on the matter, access to the artistic universe is more or less reserved for those who are just a little sick of it all.]
The translation is Michelle’s

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Aphorism & Virtual Reproduction

One of the most irritating features of ‘social networks’ like Facebook and Twitter, is their degradation of the aphorism. One can’t go a single page without some re-pasted Wise Guy saying—without a shred of evidence the one who posted it has bothered to waste a single second thinking what they might mean.

Gnomic sayings of the masters of aphorism: Heraclitus, Blake, Nietzsche, Kafka -- are concentrated bursts of insight into—not THE, but A very particular visionary world.  They were not stand-alone sayings waiting to be harvested by Bartlet & his numberless successors on the internet, but resonant and harmonic within the context of this particular world of thought or vision. Quoted without relation to that context, they are reduced to nothing more than witticisms—or worse, clichés pretending entrance to a false universal.

But this is what you get all too often. Even when a quote is given attribution it belies the authenticity of its origin—not by alteration through translation (entirely legitimate), but by stripping it of any meaning whatsoever: like a free floating Rorschach—whatever you want it to be, that’s what it is. Or taking it word for word, as though not in the least need of interpretation... which amounts to the same thing.

Far from affirming great, open ended universals,  the aphorism—by its very condensation-- testifies to the particularity of visionary truth.  They are not offered as answers, as solutions to a problem—but as invitations by means of the unexpected to explore, to begin again. A good aphorism is a perfect marriage of philosophy and poetry, and begs to be read as both, with all the care and attention that demands.

An aphorism is more than counter-intuitive (reasonable despite appearance), but genuinely paradoxical. The paradox is the very window to its truth. Smoothed out as though a rational and reasonable explanation of something one thinks one already knows -- it's nothing but a cleverly worded nostrum. 

"If the Fool persist in his Folly he will become Wise." 

When I think what audacity, what courage, what guts it took for Blake to break through with that--it damn near makes me tear up. And that's what it is--a breaking through past the shells of received notions, of smoothed over reality-- a shattered fragment, a sharp ragged-edged shard that cuts and make you bleed trying to get through it. 

If you want proof--try living it!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Two Worlds

I did a little experiment the other day in Love Park.  I took a dollar bill, folded it so it wouldn’t be too conspicuous, and placed it in a flower bed. Tourists come here from all over the world to take photos of LOVE (Robert Indiana’s literal sculpture), and there were never fewer than 5 or 6 at a time in the half hour or so I stood by and watched, as well as the hundreds who pass by, who come from nearby office buildings to eat lunch in the sunshine. None saw the dollar bill…hidden in plain sight… until a homeless man happened by. While other were busy taking photos, talking on their cell phones or soaking up rays, this man’s eyes carefully scoured the paving blocks, under the benches, the trash receptacles. One glance at the flower bed and he had that dollar bill.

They don’t see me, either.. .with my Poem Tree poster, or notice me reading aloud with my Spirit Stick, my Derby & feathers and aluminum tabs.  As though I’ve slipped out of their world.. into one perhaps closer to that homeless man.

Two worlds, I thought. Same place. Two worlds.

This, I think, is the source of the freedom I spoke of in my previous post. I think this is an obligation for any poet--a necessity, to never be comfortable in any one world, but always slipping through the cracks, seeing the artifice, the paper moon for what it...

Some have it beaten into them, that we have no home in the world...none of us. Some of us have to work at it...

Monday, April 4, 2011

To Be A Foolish Wise Guy: Poetry Month

Last spring I made a 7 day urban pilgrimage--a poetry pilgrimage. Pilgrimage as in the pre-Christian Celtic sites in Western Ireland--not long journeys to an ultimate destination: Canterbury, Compostella, but circular routes of a few hundred yards marked by sacred stopping points along the way.

I thought of the journeys most of us take every working day, from bedroom to kitchen to street to car or bus or subway, and on to our workplace. Repeated in reverse every evening.  Why not, I thought, an urban, secular pilgrimage? Mark the way stations we pass, erase from memory, make invisible through repetition. Where there are no sacred places, I thought--where nothing is inherently holy, everything might become so, for what is the sacred --  but our own powers of attention made manifest in place & time?

 Each day, for 7 days, I followed a cycle that might represent our most ordinary, daily routines: my apartment (private), backyard (private but visible to other private spaces), front porch (overlooking public space), a bench on Passyunk (public/commercial), the corner of Broad and Morris (traffic intersection & entrance to public transit), and finally, the courtyard of City Hall (Public Civic space). At each station I took notes--only the most immediate impressions, a register of sensual attention. At the end of the day, I revisited each station (my virtual return cycle) in memory, free association, commentary.  These notes became a daily two part poem for each place, repeated for seven days. I added them, page to page to make a scroll--like a sacred text. Six stations, seven days x 2, 84 'stanzas,' 16 pages in a long scroll, which I read aloud at each place for all the entries pertaining to that station--and on the last day, the whole scroll east of City Hall.

This public reading became central to the whole experience in a way I hadn't at all anticipated. It became a kind of sacrifice of self-consciousness--I wasn't reading for anyone. It made no difference whether I was alone or in a crowd, whether I was noticed or ignored (mostly the latter). I felt myself bodily entering into the poem as it happened... to me, around me, out of me and onto the scroll. The public reading was essential: in doing this, I experienced such an exhilarating sense of freedom.

Time again...Spring... when "priketh hem Nature in her corages / Than longen folk to goon on pilgrimages

This time, it will be to give poetry back, as last year I drew it forth from public space... whether anyone pays attention matters not at all.  The pigeons will be there and the sparrows--witness enough

I made a poster--for Poetry Month. With an image of a Poem Tree. I have 5 Rondos of my Poem to the End of My Days... 5 Rondos, one for every workday. For the rest of April: 2:00 PM, Love Park (or the Septa concourse beneath if rain or wind that threatens to blow my poster away).

Monday: Chronic Chronos Kairos
Tuesday: Transport
Wednesday: Everything Changes
Thursday: Talking to Trees
Friday: Chloe

If the fool persists in his folly he will become wise...

You do stuff. & then you write about it., & if what you do...

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Retro post: Dec 2, 2007 Imagining the Real

In practicing nature's art as nothing else in nature does, we make us a question to ourselves, as nothing else in nature is.
What we value as essentially human, as opposed to the life of other animals--are all the variety of ways we are able to act and create that no longer serve those basic animal needs. We don't need cities, sailboats, architecture or archeology, super bowl games, symphonies, stock markets, poems, gardens, astronomy or astrophysics, bicycles, formula one race cars, movie stars, waltzes or rock n' roll... or stories about ourselves... all that goes into making the aesthetics of the human, and which we threaten by our over valuation of technology, by a too narrow rationalism--a rationalism not willing to take seriously the special needs we acquire as part and consequence of our apparent freedom from the domain of nature (hunting gathering reproducing)--even while remaining simply another species in nature's kingdom.

Shakespeare plays beautifully with this in the garden scene of Richard II, and in the discussion on grafting in the Winter's Tale: the opposition, in his terms, between nature and "art," (that is, art as artifice, craft, skill).

Where in grafting, you take "A gentle scion to the wildest stock, and make conceive a bark of baser kind ... The art itself is nature."

But we practice nature's art as nothing else in nature does, and this makes us a question to ourselves, as nothing else in nature is.

A dog, a squirrel, a whale, a tiny patient spider, don't ask, what does it mean to be a dog, a whale, a spider? But who can say what it is to be human? We are both an animal among animals, a species in nature, and something self-created. Something so strange, that we had to invent gods to project outside ourselves what we have done, to deny the responsibility, deny coming to terms with what that means.

Religion attempts to address these questions, and fails by refusing to accept authorship of what it, and we, have invented. By accepting responsibility--that we made up this character we call God--we assimilate religion into the purely human aesthetic, where it becomes, as it was for Blake, a profound well of metaphorical self-reflection, a poetry of the human soul.

The wind is blowing across the plains, the tall grass
undulates like the fur of a great beast dreaming of prey.
We wake, the warmth of sleep abandons us to the chill
light of morning, the strength of yesterday’s meal
evaporates in the autumn air. Will today's hunt bring
success? Will we make it to the sheltering caves in the
distant hills before the first winter storm? Will it always
be so? The excitement of the hunt, the elation of the fresh
kill, of skins heavy with gathered seeds, the days of sleep
in the sun, the pleasures of the flesh under the beneficent
moon... will it always be so? Will summer always give way to
autumn and autumn to cruel winter, to days when the spoor is
cold--when even the dogs catch no scent of elk or antelope
on the glacial wind?

Will we always find ourselves like this, the bones gnawed
clean around the fire, the marrow sucked, our furs too worn
to keep us warm? But look! The mountains are not so far.
Surely there are herds--in the valley over the next
hill--complacent and fearless and without number. Observe the
dogs, there is much they can teach us--how hunger only makes
them the more joyful for the hunt!

Come--we are not alone... I have felt the warmth of your hand
and only last night I dreamt of such things as the earth has
never seen. I believe the wind spirit, who dissolves all things
and returns them to invisibility, found favor in us as we slept.
I see her light shining on your face, my own light reflected in
your eyes. With such a blessing, we will never be lost in this
great world no matter how far we wander.